TECHNOLOGY is helping global IT giant CGI improve the health of its 74,000 strong worldwide workforce.

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As a company that specialises in IT support, it is perhaps to be expected that technology has been utilised to boost the wellbeing of its workers, but even CGI bosses have been surprised at how well its programme, named Oxygen, has been received.

Employees are not the only ones to be impressed – the programme has just been chosen as the best health and wellbeing initiative at the recent CIPD People Management Awards.

In the UK, the three key areas of the programme’s focus are: mental health – particularly stress, anxiety and depression; musculoskeletal problems arising from computer use; and sedentary lifestyles.

By harnessing technology, the company can make sure that all employees, no matter if they are in Scotland or anywhere else in the world, can access the advice and support they require. Everyone can tap into the portal which carries a wealth of information and articles about health. For example, the UK version of the site is currently offering vouchers for flu vaccines.

A key feature of Oxygen, which can be accessed online or via a mobile app, is a health assessment which is completely confidential.

After the user answers questions on mental health, eating habits, alcohol use and smoking, they receive a summary of their current state of health with tips on how to improve their score.

Aggregated and de-personalised data from the questionnaire is collected to analyse the overall health of the CGI community and identify strategic health priorities. In addition, regional data is used to develop custom-tailored health programmes for specific regions.

Useful information is constantly distributed to CGI’s thousands of employees through a weekly round-up email, podcasts, team briefings and online forums. An additional monthly newsletter reinforces key messages, and all employees have access to the programme’s portal to find more information or register for events.

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The Oxygen portal contains advice on how workers can remain active and how to register for charity exercise activities or for corporate events including CGI’s annual Walk Around the World, where annually over 1,000 UK workers join their colleagues for a lunchtime stroll on a given date every September.

There is also a fun parkrun challenge which encourages members to take part in as many of the weekly, free 5k challenges as possible and has seen people continue participation in both running and parkrun on an ongoing basis.

All CGI employees automatically become members of the Oxygen programme and it has become a valuable recruitment tool as prospective employees look on it as one of the bonuses of working with the company.

Wellbeing and optimum health are the key focus of the programme, with content continually updated to keep it interesting and appealing.

It is recognised that taking time to prepare nutritious food is important so tips on healthy eating and seasonal recipes are provided to members giving straightforward ideas on helping to build balanced meals.

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Webinars are also popular such as one run recently by external provider Shine Offline which encourages members to reflect on their use of mobile devices and gave some practical tips for managing their impact and harnessing them more effectively.

The programme has translated into a tangible business benefit for CGI, in the form of reduced insurance premiums – the firm said Oxygen could be credited with saving more than £60,000 in this area alone. CGI also has a place on the top employers’ list, granted partly on the strength of its wellbeing activity.

The programme also recognises the pressures on staff that come from fastpaced modern life and issues that can crop up around family, relationships, bereavement and money, so has trained members of staff as mental health first aiders who can spot the signs of depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health problems in their colleagues.

In Scotland, where CGI’s clients include Glasgow City Council, City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Borders Council, nearly 40 employees have been trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

This teaches people how to recognise crucial warning signs of mental ill health and feel confident to guide someone to the appropriate support.

The programme also encourages openness and inclusion by sharing employees’ blogs recounting their personal experiences of mental illness.

The judges of the CIPD award cited this as an area where the programme showed “real heart that genuinely taps into staff’s ideas and engagement”.

Work place focus: Savvy staff welcome healthy approach

ANNE Bartlett has no doubt that technology is a vital aid in her company’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of staff.

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Occupational health nurse, Anne Bartlett, finds tech-savvy workforce responds well to assessments, seminars and seasonal advice via smartphones

An experienced occupational health nurse, she manages the UK version of CGI’s innovative Oxygen programme, with support from local ambassadors, the HR team and senior management, including CGI UK president Tara McGeehan. It is a full time post and she has been in the role for five years.

“The fact that I am full time is in itself quite unusual as although other companies have people looking after health it is usually on top of their normal job,” she pointed out.

“I think that shows how much store CGI puts on wellbeing and health.”

Technology has made the programme accessible to everyone, she says. “We use technology a lot so we can include everyone on CGI sites, client sites and those who work at home.”

All employees become members of Oxygen when they join the company and can access it through the online portal or mobile app.

As well as general advice on health, the portal shows webinars on a regular basis, covering a wide range of subjects such as prostate cancer, mobile phone use, menopause and anxiety. Members can choose to watch them live online and can even ask real time questions of the presenters.

The webinars usually draw an audience of around 200 to 300, however they are also recorded so that people can watch later if they don’t catch them first time round.

The programme is fun to use with all sorts of information on health and wellbeing including keeping fit and healthy eating.

“As far as technology is concerned I think people respond well to it,” said Bartlett. “They are used to technology and feel at ease with it.

People enjoy the programme – it’s seen as a big asset of the company and is a draw in terms of recruitment.” Oxygen focuses on different aspects of health at different times of year.

From January to March the focus is on health screening and mini health MOTs, then in spring it is mental health to coincide with Mental Health Week in May. Summer is more geared to activity challenges, while this time of year is about flu prevention.

Bartlett sees her role as an important one and her view is backed by the positive response she gets from Oxygen members. “I think something like this is vital,” she said.

“As time goes on, health and wellbeing are seen as increasingly important. Millennials in particular, are more interested in the quality of their worklife and achieving a balance so they don’t burn out by the time they are 35.

“I think companies are realising they need to take care of their people if they are going to be productive and engaged at work.”